Montessori and Technology

First off, I found a book called Optimal Learning Environments to Promote Student Engagement, by David J. Shernoff, which I should definitely read (at least partially) for this class.

Now, back to Montessori. I’ve read a couple research articles this week, and I’d like to highlight one of them. It was about using technology in the Montessori classroom.

“Effects of iPad Tablets on Private Montessori Education” (Wickramasinghe, 2016)

In this study, first-, second-, and third-grade teachers who use iPads in the classroom were interviewed about their observations and opinions on the impact of iPads on their students’ learning. Teachers reported that iPads improve student…

  • Motivation
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Attention/Focus
  • Engagement
  • Productivity
  • Participation
  • Organization
  • Excitement about learning
  • Academic achievement

Another improvement is that the iPad can produce immediate feedback, whereas some traditional methods cannot. In this study, the feedback was given to the teachers only, since first-through-third-grade children are probably too young to reflect on iPad feedback and self-improve. With older students, however, this feedback may be shared with them directly and may be useful for rapid self-improvement, without the delay of the teacher needing to, for example, grade quizzes.

Teachers reported using iPad apps to teach and review student progress, such as:

They also reported that using AirPlay to display information on a screen was great for collaboration. I’m excited that this is a finding, since my first post was about interactive displays, and I would love to integrate Montessori and displays in my project.

More about Montessori Classroom Materials

I’m back on the American Montessori Society website, this time on the Learning Materials page. Here are some core things that the page highlights about materials (I’m loving bullet points today):

  • Fragile materials are good for teaching children to value and take care of items that may break. They have no reason to learn to interact with items carefully if those items are always unbreakable. To apply this to technology: well, technology is fragile.
  • Teachers demonstrate the way that the children should handle the objects (e.g., with care, as above). They are role models. With technology, isn’t it WAY better when your teacher knows how to use Trunk (for example) as well as you do, rather than feeling like the teacher is “forcing” you to use something they don’t themselves understand or (perhaps) value? Yeah, me too.
  • “Each learning material teaches one skill or concept at a time.” With university students, “one skill” will have a much more complex definition than with elementary schoolers, but I believe the same principle should stand. You can’t learn Punnet squares and standard deviations simultaneously.
  • The child discovers the task. (Side note: this is also a tactic in mediation – it is less effective for the mediator to give the parties an idea/answer than it is for the mediator to lead the parties to the answer they were thinking of, since then the parties feel it was their idea and that they are smart, etc.) This idea could also be helpful with university students, and could be encouraged through interactive activities in which the students discover what works and what doesn’t and learn from that experience.
  • If he cannot complete the task on his own, “he can try again, ask another child for help, or go to a teacher for suggestions if the work doesn’t look quite right.” Basically, the student should have a support system.
  • “Montessori materials use real objects and actions to translate abstract ideas into concrete form.” I’m not sure that this is always doable for the complex topics that university students cover, but when it is doable to have some physical representation (e.g. graph) or activity, then it’s definitely useful. I think interacting with a smart display would definitely help with this.
  • Promote physical activity in learning and multi-modal learning. Using an interactive display could involve movement if the students must stand up at the board/screen, and uses touch in addition to audio and visual channels.

It seems to me that Montessori theory can be very helpful in redesigning the way that interactive displays are used in a university classroom. I am excited to dive deeper into this (or a similar) topic.

References

Wickramasinghe, A. (2016). Effects of iPad tablets on private montessori education (Order No. 10155752). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1817664035). Retrieved from https://login.ezproxy.library.tufts.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1817664035?accountid=14434

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